Photo’s from the Score

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The Holpool Gutter as it emerges from beneath the Manchester Ship Canal at Stanlow to re-enter the south Mersey salt marsh. 

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Looking back (west) to Stanlow oil refinery and the hidden delights of the Mersey marshes.

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A panorama view across Frodsham Score.

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The after effects of the tide punching chunks of marsh back onto the salt marsh. It shows the power of these high tides on this fragile ecosystem.

A big thanks to Shaun Hickey for his mobile phone images (he forgot his camera yesterday ;O) .

If you want to get involved with https://www.bto.org/volunteer-surveys/webs contact these people or drop me a line and I’ll forward your interest to Dermot Smith the Mersey co-ordinator.

OTD – 09.10.01, There’s a Killer Whale in the Mersey!

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On this day-09.10.01.

I was munching my tea (dinner if you’re posh) while watching the hum-drum news from BBC NW tonight’s regional TV news programme. At the end of the broadcast there was the usual ……. and finally snippet… “A Killer Whale washed up on the River Mersey below Liverpool Airport at Oglet shore on the morning tide”. This was an opportunity not to be missed. I jumped onto my bike and peddled the 5 miles across Runcorn Bridge, along Ditton Road via Halebank and Hale Village through to the outskirts of Speke, Liverpool and then down Dungeon Lane to the shore at Oglet Bay.

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…The area where the whale became stranded was a hot bed for abandoned stolen vehicles which would invariably end up on the muddy edges of the river or in it! It was also a regular black spot for fly tipping (not the most salubrious locations to whip out your expensive optical gear). I can confidently say these words knowing the area well enough and knowing a few rangers who plied their trade here in previous years. Those rangers deserved a medal balancing the needs and different attitudes from the many Mersey Way participants. A fine balancing act between the affluent area of Hale Village and the less affluent district of south Liverpool.

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A small gang of kids were gathered loitering without any intent at the bottom of the lane by the shore and because there wasn’t anybody else there I asked them if they had seen any people looking for a whale? ….not really expecting them to give me the answer I wanted. One of them a proper Speke ‘lid’ (scouse for lad) said “No mate, but there’s a f#ck!^g helicopter crashed on the mud over there”. Erm, quite, and following their eagerly pointing fingers I could see a large shape stretched out on the distant mudflats. The helicopter propeller was one of the pectoral fins of a 5.9 m long Killer Whale! I thanked the kids for their help and started to tell them what the whale was and how rare it is to see in the river, never mind the North West of England and the Irish Sea (I could almost hear my own voice slowed to a steady drone from the look on their faces). Their interest lasted a little shorter than my words and they were off on their bikes looking for something else, less boring instead. I set my telescope up and got reasonable views of the carcass and its lone sad figure stretched there on the murky grey brown mud of the River Mersey a few hundred feet away. I wish I had owned a decent camera in those days to capture the moment of this once majestic creature isolated against the backdrop of Stanlow Oil Refinery and Ince marshes across the river. I stayed for a couple of hours taking in the spectacle but during that period I don’t recall seeing anyone else on the shoreline. I saw the Orca carcass again from Runcorn Hill and later from No.4 tank, Frodsham Marsh the following day. I guess it would have been a hazard to smaller boats if it became re-floated on a higher tide and carried out to the Mersey mouth. I did hear it was blown to smithereens by dynamite soon after the autopsy and that it attracted thousands of gulls to feed on the bits that were left.

There isn’t much more I can add to this whale’s tale but the ZSL London Zoo did an autopsy and established it was an old male who probably died soon after the stranding but was already very poorly due to starvation. It had worn canines and one tooth abscess which would have been a very painful ailment, reducing its feeding considerably prior to entering Liverpool Bay.

I remember a story going around at the time this animal had been seen swimming off Wallasey the previous day?

It took me a couple more years before I finally caught up seeing a live specimen which was across one ocean and in another but the memory of that Mersey Orca was a haunting one and perhaps not the best last resting place for such a magnificent beast.

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The species is facing an uncertain future particularly in British waters and being at the top of the food chain this naturally brings its own issues, not least as they absorb (through the food chain) PCB’s which accumulate in their body tissue and are considered (particularly in British Columbia) toxic waste whenever they are found dead on the tide line.

An article regarding PCB’s can be found on this link: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-45652149

The link to ZSL’s full story here: https://www.zsl.org/blogs/wild-science/what-killed-the-killer-whale and credit for Orca the images.

Written by WSM.

06.09.18. Birdlog.

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I took a walk along the River Weaver this afternoon. There was a flock of c30 Little Grebe dotted about the river with decent numbers of Mallard, Common Teal, Common Shelduck and a few Tufted Duck being noted.

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A flock of c200 Black-tailed Godwit were on the sand bank with c300 Lapwing, c30 Redshank, 3 Greenshank, 2 Dunlin and 2 Ruff. 4 Mute Swan and a Little Egret made their way down river.

House Martin and Swallow were feeding along the river bank and being busy feeding up for the big haul south ignored a Kestrel hunting alongside them.

Observer and images: Paul Ralston.

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Additionally over at Widnes Warth Marsh a feeding flock of 45 Ringed Plover, 20 Dunlin, 17 Redshank, 3 Little Egret and a singing Cetti’s Warbler per WSM.

15.05.18. Birdlog.

There is a flooded field adjacent to Frodsham Swing Bridge that is attracting quite a few birds this summer. I stopped en route to the marsh to have a look over and although not overly stocked it did have a few interesting species. A breeding pair of Coot have a family brood which they are busy tending to at the moment with a brood of Mallard ducklings also present. It was a surprise to see a pair of Shoveler and two pairs of Gadwall looking settled. Previously Garganey, Little Egret and Avocet have frequented this spot so it’s worth keeping an eye on it, if you are passing.

Contractors were busy reinstalling some meccano pieces to the tall beacon light on No.5 tank and nerves of steel for the two guys who were perched atop of the mast.

No.6 tank was again quiet but the brisk north-westerly wind and bright sunny skies did little for the late Spring migrant rush. A flock of c300 Black-tailed Godwit were lazy out the hot weather in the cooling shallow waters. A small group of Tufted Duck, Gadwall, Mallard and paired up Common Shelduck were also present.

A male and female Marsh Harrier drifted over No.3 tank where a small flock of Black-tailed Godwit lingered for a short while. The presumed two AWOL Barnacle Goose were still hanging out by the shallow pools.

A singing Chaffinch along Moorditch Lane.

Frodsham Hill looking east along Lordship Lane.

Helsby Hill looking south from Lordship Lane.

Mersey Marshes #2

A selection of images from the Mersey Marshes today.

An injured or exhausted Guillemot came in with the tide today, a species normally expected to be found off the Wirral coast but rarely encountered off Frodsham Score/the upper reaches of the Mersey estuary.

There’s usually a larger gull, gull roost at the weekends on the south Mersey salt marshes and monthly WeBS counters get to count them.

Big numbers of Canada Goose are a common feature in the Autumn and Winter months.

Mute Swans fly in from Frodsham Marshes.

Raven need little introduction with numbers high throughout the year. These birds are riding the tide out on the banks of Frodsham Score. The Allan Wilson WW2 gun defence turret is situated at the top left hand corner (with an elder tree growing out of its base).

Images by Shaun Hickey.

25.05.17. Birdlog

A walk around No.6 tank after the heat of the day had and air-cooled on the marshes. I started with watching a chirping family of House Sparrow feeding by the ditch on Moorditch Lane. A Reed Warbler was busily carrying food in to the vegetation and a Reed Bunting was equally busy alarm calling from the same area.

Onto No.6 and the Common Shelduck were again notable with Tufted Duck, Mallard and Gadwall were also present. A smaller flock of 50 Black-tailed Godwit were feeding along the edge of the north end of the tank. Another 300 birds were gathered close to the tanks northern section. Two pair of Little Grebe were out on the water as were the non-breeding Mute Swan herd. A Lapwing was keeping a parental eye on two well-grown chicks and was kept busy by the corvids that constantly strayed too close. A pair of Avocet joined with the godwit flock and another 10 were with 150 Blackwits on the mitigation pools.

A pair of Canada Goose had a single chick on the secluded pool and another pair of Little Grebe and a pair of Gadwall may have bred locally as well? The male Marsh Harrier drifted over the reed bed and several Common Buzzard lazily drifted over in the sultry evening sky.

I watched as the sun dropped below the horizon over the salt marshes and the Liverpool skyline across the Mersey estuary from Manley Road near Frodsham was a beautiful sight.

Observer: Paul Ralston (images 1-2 & 4-5).

My first Painted Lady Butterfly of the Spring was in a garden at Weston village near Runcorn this evening (WSM images 3 & 6-10).

Images from Hale Shore.